What to do in Cebu, Philippines

By the reactions from locals we spoke to on the way to Cebu, it's not as much of a holiday destination as El Nido or Boracay but I loved it!

A lot of people visit this part of the Philippines to swim with whale sharks in Oslob which was the main drawcard for me initially, but after some research I found the ethics to be quite questionable and I decided not to. We found some other really awesome things to do in the area instead!

Sea turtles at Apo Island

It's a bit of a journey, but if you keep going south past Oslob and then across the water to Dumaguete, you'll be able to go to Apo Island. The snorkelling there is amazing and from research, it seemed like the only place in the Philippines where you're guaranteed to see sea turtles. It was a bit of a journey but one we were keen to make considering we weren't going to swim with whale sharks. 

What to do in Cebu 2

We arrived too late to make the ferry across on the first night to stay on Apo Island so opted to stay at Harold's Mansion, right next door to where the tours left. "Mansion" is a bit of a stretch, but the place was tidy enough, has air-con and a nice rooftop restaurant with its own vege/herb garden. When we checked in they informed us that we were too late for the Apo Island tour, it was all booked up. They offered us a spot on the snorkelling tour to Dauin instead.

When we got to Dauin the next morning we managed to negotiate spots on the Apo Island tour anyway and we were so happy that they let us! Dauin was just a beach that probably had nice underwater views, but once we got to Apo Island we were rewarded with the most amazing snorkelling, the best we had on the whole trip and we saw so many turtles! We also saw sea snakes, sea slugs, starfish, giant clams and a plethora of different types of tropical fish. I even saw flying fish on the boat ride over.

What to do in Cebu 4

We were about two swimmers to one guide who showed us around and told us what not to do, but I still saw other tourists try to touch the turtles. Our guide took us to some caves on the shore and we had fun jumping off the boat with the other guides and watching them make bubble rings underwater, it was a wonderful trip. 

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Travel to Liloan

After the tour, we headed back to Cebu Island via the quick ferry and went to our accommodation in Liloan - Tropara Resort which can be found on Airbnb. We loved it there, it was right on the beach and everything about it was really tropical and relaxed. Our room, the Mermaid Room, had a balcony that opened out to the water which gave us some spectacular sunrises and sunsets. 

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What to do in Cebu Kawasan Falls

Kawasan Falls and Cebu City

The next day we were picked up to do the Kawasan Falls, which I will write a full blog post for soon. Let's just say it is highly recommended! 

After that, we took another yellow bus up the island back to Cebu City, where we stayed in the Bayfront Hotel Cebu. It was a nice enough hotel just across the SM Cebu City Mall which we took a trip to. The mall itself was pretty standard, there wasn't anything too outrageous and when I visited the supermarket I struggled to find anything weird and wonderful to take home. We were disappointed by the supermarket's lack of Asian fruits like mangosteens or dragonfruit. But I was really happy with my dried mango purchases and wish I had bought more, apparently, Cebu mango is much cheaper in Cebu, who would've thought! 

We spent a lot of our time in Cebu travelling (it was 6 hours from Cebu to Liloan on the bus alone) but it was a really cool part of the trip; I feel like we got to experience the less touristy sides of the Philippines like the city centre and the small towns that don't see a lot of foreigners. 

Would you give Cebu a try? Or have you been yourself? 

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Travel to: The Philippines

  Boracay by Lutz from Flickr, click for source. 

Boracay by Lutz from Flickr, click for source. 

This is a travel blog, and as much as I want to fill the pages of it with my own travels, the sad truth is I am only a part-time traveller at the moment. But I'm not going to let that stop me from sharing travel tips and advice! There are plenty of other travel bloggers out there who are visiting some amazing places that I would love to see, and have great advice that I think my readers and I could benefit from too! 

First up in my "Travel to" series is the Philippines. I chose to write about it first because it's been on my radar a lot lately; heaps of travellers I follow seem to be going there at the moment, giving me FOMO.

Why travel to the Philippines? 

My interest in the Philippines has piqued recently after seeing heaps of photos on Instagram of people swimming with whale sharks in it's beautiful clear waters. Aussies and Kiwis are always travelling to Bali, Fiji or Thailand, and for good reason, but the more I look into the Philippines, the more I like what I see. Here are what some other travel bloggers have to say about it: 

The Wandering Quinn answers "Is it really more fun in the Philippines?"

I really loved looking through Ellie's posts about the Philippines because they were refreshingly honest. Her post "Is it really more fun in the Philippines" gives the pros and cons of travelling to the Philippines which is really helpful if you're thinking of travelling there. I also loved her post "The True Manila tour" which took her around the slums of the large, overpopulated city, because it shows a different side to the country and one that probably wouldn't get touched on by other bloggers.  

  The Wandering Quinn with some children on the "True Manila" tour

The Wandering Quinn with some children on the "True Manila" tour

  Boats moored on a beach in the Philippines

Boats moored on a beach in the Philippines

Alyssa Nicole writes about Cebu, PalawanBoracay, Bohol and Manila

Alyssa's photos of the whale sharks are stunning, and they make me want to grab my bikini and GoPro and jump on a plane right now! I love her photo galleries of the cities and beaches she visited in the Philippines, especially of Spider House in Boracay, I will definitely be staying there when I visit! As long as the name isn't literal...

  Alyssa Nicole swimming with whale sharks in the Philippines

Alyssa Nicole swimming with whale sharks in the Philippines

  The Spider House shot by Alyssa Nicole

The Spider House shot by Alyssa Nicole

 

Just One Way Ticket - 10 Reasons Why You Should Travel to the Philippines

Honestly, some of the pictures alone make me want to jump on a plane and spend my days lounging around the stunning beaches of the Philippines; they make Bali look like the ugly step-sister! Did you know 90% of the population of the Philippines speaks English? And that it is home to the fourth largest shopping mall in the world? 

Then there's this article, Phillippines From The Air, accompanied by the below video, which has the most amazing drone shots! Honestly if you're not sold by now you're bonkers! 

Have you been to the Philippines before? How do you think it compares to other countries around it?

Revision 23 November 2017. 

Since writing this article, I have come to realise that it is not good to swim with whale sharks in Oslob. Although the tourism has brought a huge boom to the local economy, the practice of swimming with whale sharks is perhaps not in the best interests of the animals. It is try that they are there of their own choice but they are fed by the local fisherman, which has caused them to deviate from their natural migration paths, become too trusting around other boats (the tour boats that tourists go on are motorless, but now the sharks relate boats to food, and it can cause them to be in danger when in other areas), and it just looks like a petting zoo when everyone is in the water. Although they say it is a safe practice, I wouldn't entirely trust this. Please do your own research when considering a swim with whale sharks in Oslob. 

THE BENEFITS OF A GOPRO (ft. Bali video)

THE BENEFITS OF A GOPRO (ft. Bali video)

I've been wanting to start making videos of my holidays for a while now, I used to love doing it in my job at the radio station and have missed it. Sadly, when I got to Bali I found that my DSLR can only record a few seconds of video at a time! I had emptied out my SD card so I had plenty of space (16G), I need to work out what's going wrong. So, I went with my handy dandy GoPro instead, and there were definitely some pros and cons. Check out the video below, it's my first travel video so I still have lots to learn! 

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Bali 2016

I went to Bali with not a lot of expectations. I did a bit of research but I mostly wanted to discover what it had to offer. What I found was an island paradise with so much culture and exciting things to do at every turn. I didn't make it to Ubud or anywhere further north which I'm pretty gutted about, but I was only there for 5 days and had to fit around my friends' plan so I'm happy I did what I did. 

Bali Sundays Beach Club sunset bonfire

The first couple of days were pretty chilled, we looked around Kuta and did some bartering, had massages, changed accommodation, I went for a surf and we explored the Legian Beach Festival which was really awesome. We ended up eating dinner at the festival 3 times in a row because we all fell in love with one of the stall's BBQ ribs, they were next level and cost less than $4NZD. We also saw some interesting cultural dances and a bar-tender competition on the main stage. 

Legian Beach Festival dancers We the lost girls

On the Friday night a few of us went to Sky Garden which is one of the big nightclubs in Kuta. We got there by scooter, which was a terrifyingly exciting experience. My friend Holly and I went on the back of one scooter with a local driving us, and our two male friends did the same. Can't say there were many helmets worn (none) and our bikes barely made it over the speed bumps! 

It was a really huge nightclub with several floors and we chose the rooftop bar to dance the night away in. It was filled with heaps of travellers like us and had a really good vibe. I'd had a few Bintangs beforehand and stuck to those because I'd heard not-so-great things about the local alcohol, Arak, and that some of the other beverages in the establishment could be less that favourable. 

The next day Holly and I went to Tanah Lot to see the temple there that sticks out of the ocean. It was really stunning but I wish we'd perhaps gotten there earlier to beat the crowds, there were a lot of colourful sun umbrellas and people taking photos in front of the best bits which is what I wanted to do! We also got to hold a giant boa constrictor! Holly really wasn't a fan, as you can see...

Bali Boa Constrictor We the lost girls

Sorry Holly, just had to use that image, it's priceless! 

Bali Tanah Lot We the lost girls
Bali Tanah Lot Me We the lost girls
Bali Tanah Lot workers We the lost girls

On Sunday, we went to Sunday's Beach Club, which was absolutely stunning! We each paid 300k Rupiah, which is close to $30NZ for the day. This included a 150k tab for food, entry to the Infinity Pool and the beach club itself which is reached by gondola, towel use, access to snorkels and paddleboards and the sunset bonfire. It's not how I would usually travel, I don't find relaxing relaxing, even in luxury, but I was enticed by photos of the sunset and the snorkelling and paddleboard access. It was an amazing day all up but I got bored half way through because we could only snorkel and paddleboard around the small bay and the food and drink was about the same price as back home. I also couldn't lie around sunbathing because I had quite bad sunburn from the day before. But we enjoyed the Infinity Pool for a while then I went and explored around the rocks for a bit and then it was time for the bonfire. That, I really enjoyed. From 6-7pm the drinks were half price so we had some delicious concoctions and watched the sunset from our beanbags by the fire. A lovely way to end the day but instead of staying for dinner at their restaurant we headed back to the festival for our cheap ribs! 

Bali Sundays Beach Club We the lost girls
Bali Sundays Beach Club 2 We the lost girls
Bali Sundays Beach Club 3 We the lost girls
Bali Sundays Beach Club 6 We the lost girls
Bali Sundays Beach Club 4 We the lost girls
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For my last day, Holly and I had planned to go to Ubud because I wanted to see the monkeys and the rice terraces, but our friends had said they saw some monkeys in Uluwatu and there were turtles at one of the beaches, so we opted to go with the group to Uluwatu. I am really stoked we got to ride on scooters, I hired my own and had a blast riding around on it and I loved going to see Uluwatu temple. Sadly it took us so long to get there though, so after roasting in heat at the temple, we headed down to Padang Padang beach and I only got 5 minutes to swim and cool off before I had to rush back for my flight. And I saw no monkeys or turtles which I was really bummed about. But I know for next time, and I would definitely love to go back to Uluwatu and explore more of the area, it had a really laid back, beachy vibe, kinda like Piha. 

Bali Uluwatu Temple 1 We the lost girls
Bali Uluwatu temple 2 We the lost girls

 

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Bali! I will definitely go back one day, I can see how people go back year after year for a holiday, but there are plenty more places I want to visit first, the world is a huge place! 

Have you been to Bali before? What was a highlight for you? 

Bali for beginners

This is Bali for beginners, written by a beginner! I just got back from an amazing 5 day holiday on the Island of the Gods and thought I'd share a more informative post about my trip. I'll also be doing a prettier post about my experiences, but I figured if I split the post up it'll be a bit easier to digest. Here's a break down of my trip with some advice for you. 

Bali for beginners - We the lost girls

BARTERING

This definitely needs to be explained a bit because it' can be a pretty foreign concept to Westerners. If you're not sticking to high end stuff in Bali there's a strong chance you'll get to barter the price of things. There are heaps and heaps of market stalls in Kuta, Legian and Seminyak (those are the areas I'm more familiar with but there were more elsewhere too) that are selling a bounty of wares you can barter for. Fake Nikes, Beats, Yeezys, NY caps, Karen Walker sunnies, Hurley singlets, dream catchers, beaded necklaces, cultural items and more, don't settle on the first price at the first place you see. I did. Rookie mistake. I probably paid double what I could've paid. 

There are places where you don't barter, like the malls or the stalls that explicitly say "Fixed Price, No Bullshit." A good rule of thumb is if it has a price tag, that's a set price. Go lower than you expect to pay if they're asking you how much you want to pay or if they suggest a price look shocked and go for around 1/3 or 1/2 of that and meet somewhere in between. You should be paying around $5-$10 for a knock off hat, singlet, watch or sunnies, maybe $5 for a sarong or those fun Bali pants.

Bali for beginners bartering

Don't forget, yes these people are trying to rip you off, but it's because they have mouths to feed, so don't just haggle for the sake of it if you aren't planning to buy. That said, walking away is sometimes part of the game, they might run after you or offer you a better price the next time you pass by. Also try get in really early as many will give you a "morning price" and if you're they first purchase of the day they might rub your money on all their products for good luck.

FLIGHTS

I flew with Tiger which was super cheap ($620 return including insurance, arranged by travel agent) with no frills. Literally. I have no complaints but a few other passengers seemed to, but I couldn't figure out what their issues were so who knows who is to fault. Melbourne to Bali was roughly 6 hours there, 5 hours back. It was a lot longer from Auckland; my friends got really cheap flights but had to stop over in Sydney for 9 hours. There's a reason so many Aussies visit regularly. 

ACCOMMODATION

The first place I stayed in was an Airbnb that my friends had organised, called the Royal Kuta Villas. It slept all 7 of us comfortably, had its own pool and breakfast was prepared in the villa for us. It was nice and central but I was only there for 1 night so can't really give the best review.

The second place we stayed in for 3 nights called the Melasti Beach Resort & Spa, located in Legian. It was an excellent place for us to stay in, for $46/pp per night we had a fairly basic, but well equipped room (the booking was for one room but they gave us one room with two single beds and another with a double). We had access to three different pools, two with swim-up bars that were really reasonably priced, free Wifi in the rooms, free buffet breakfast and beach access. It was a really family oriented place so it was pretty quiet but we had everything we needed for a great price. I remember paying similar rates in Hawaii for very basic backpackers in shared rooms. 

Bali for beginners - Melasti Beach Resort & Spa

TRANSPORT

When I arrived in Bali I was greeted by an overwhelming number of taxi drivers but I knew they would all try scam me so I tried walking past them. Soon realised I had no idea where I was going so I just got in a taxi with one who followed me. 400,000 Rupiah for a 15 min taxi ride is a huge rip off so I would recommend bartering with a few. My return trip was 200k and that was without haggling. 

In Bali there are several ways to get around. I got laughed at when I told potential taxi drivers I was going to walk to the beach. Sure, exploring by foot is great, but when you want to get somewhere in Bali it's super cheap to get transport and you won't end up sweating buckets. 

 Bali for beginners - transport

Hire a scooter to ride yourself for $6 a day and it'll only cost you $2 to fill up the tank with a bottle of petrol on the side of the road if you run out. It's a super cheap way to travel and if you get lost you can just pull up next to someone and ask for directions. 

Bali for beginners Transport Petrol

This isn't for everyone but personally I wish I'd done it more days, I had a blast. You can also jump on the back of a scooter for a bit less than a taxi, depending on your bartering skills and it'll be much much faster. Taxis are a pretty cheap option too or you can organise a driver for the day. We had a few that were just recommended to us by the hotel (one of the guards at the Melasti, Marijuana, kept sorting us out with cheap drivers). We paid 450k to get to Tanah Lot temple one day and he waited for us, would've taken us to Ubud for that price too but we decided not to go. Another day we went to Sunday's Beach Resort in Uluwatu for 35k which was a way better deal and split between 7 made it really cheap. 

FOOD

You can end up paying western prices in Bali depending where you go, but there are so many cheap places to eat. A lot of the touristy places, like the Australian Bar we went to will charge you Australian/NZ prices, maybe a little cheaper. But beware; like in America, they add tax at the end so it ends up being a little dearer once you go to pay.  

There are plenty of street vendors around selling interesting things but we were quite bad and didn't try much. We had breakfast at the hotel, most days were too hot to eat lunch, then we had dinner every night at the Legian Beach Festival, where we had outstanding ribs for 37k. They were just so damn good and so cheap that we kept going back. There's plenty of cool new fruits to try, I've never seen dragon fruit (pictured below) or mangosteen in New Zealand but they're both so interesting. 

Bali for beginners Food

People warn you about the food over there but most of us were fine, we had a couple of false alarms but we ate whatever we wanted and brushed our teeth with the water from the hotels, just didn't drink it straight. The food and water standards seem to have gotten much better in recent years. But that doesn't mean you won't get Bali belly...I promise nothing! 

MONEY

I am terrible at math and this doesn't change when it comes to dealing with foreign currency. I was constantly giving people 20k notes when they needed 200k notes etc. Bali uses Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) and it's actually really easy to work out for Kiwis/Aussies, if you have half a brain (unlike me). You pretty much take off the last 4 zeros and boom, that's how much it is in dollars (Australian in particular is bang on, for Kiwis it's a little more). How I couldn't grasp this concept myself is a mystery. 

VACCINATIONS

Didn't get any, fingers crossed. The doctor recommended I get the Hep A/Typhoid but it was a little pricey so I skipped it... 

CORRUPTION

Unfortunately this needs to be mentioned. It's the sad truth that Bali has a lot of corruption and tourists can get really ripped off. We were lucky enough to not see much, but I have heard a lot of stories about people getting sucked into buying stuff they don't want, having their phones or wallets nicked when they were a bit drunk or getting harassed by the cops.

Three of my friends were on scooters and got pulled over by a couple of police and "fined" 600k. We told one of our drivers later and he told us how to deal with this situation next time. Straight away you should take your key out of the ignition and put it in your pocket; never give it to them. Don't give them your passport or licence either, as long as you've got a helmet on you can't get in trouble so they're just trying to get money out of you, or worse. He told us you should keep asking them why they pulled you over, and offer to go down to the police headquarters in Denpasar to see their superior, or do the paperwork, which often will send them running. We heard you can also take out your phone, take a photo of them and ask for their name, which also scares them off. Worst comes to worse offer them 20k and drive off. Test out your haggling skills ;)

Don't let that scare you off though, as long as you keep your wits about you and be sensible you'll be fine and have a terrific time. You can have a fantastic island getaway for a great price in Bali and I would highly recommend it!

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Have any more tips for first timers in Bali? I would love to hear them, I was only there for 5 days so my knowledge and experiences are limited, feel free to share below! 

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